In about a week, that might be the apt kick off count down, to the 2016 tennis season. This season has a bit of an ominous feel to it for me. I don’t what you guys think, but I feel like this season may mark the last great season for two icons of the game. I’m talking Serena Williams and Roger Federer. I also think we’ll see a few retirements this season. Slowly but surely, the tennis landscape will restructure itself once more. Familiar faces will become remembered faces, and strange faces will become familiar ones. But… that might just be my rambling. On to more pressing discussions. What are the biggest things I’m watching out for this season. Check them out below.
WHO AMONG US WILL STEP UP?
By us, I mean the young guard in tennis. This covers both the ATP and WTA tours by the way. We’ve been reading about how tennis has changed over the last couple of years and how 30 is the new 20. Yes, I get it. Improved fitness regiments, sports nutrition, smart scheduling and even the racket technology, has helped to lengthen the average tennis player’s years at the top. Emphasis is on lengthen. I honestly don’t think it should shut out the up and comer. At a certain point, especially if you’ve broken into the top 20, your earning enough to access these same benefits as well.
So what’s holding back Dimitrov, Raonic, Muguruza, Bencic and a host of other young players from winning a grand slam? Yes 30 might feel younger, but it’s still older than 20. Maybe we should just be blunt and say they don’t churn out champions like they used to anymore. Think a young Serena, Federer or Nadal wouldn’t tear through the field today? Would you put your money on it? Let me know in the comments section.
CAN MR. FED SCORE THE BIG ONE, ONE MORE TIME?
Now there’s a question for you. Federer was phenomenal in 2015 (for his age). He was stellar against about 99% of the field. He took home five titles and got to two grand slam finals (The most in a season since 2009). However, he could not convert any of those chances, and there was one reason for that. Djokovic. Safe to say, there are two ways Federer can win one more grand slam before father time closes the book on him. One is to play at a dizzying high level in a final against Djokovic and the other way is to hope someone else takes him out first. Given the way Novak’s been playing, I’d try to go with the first. The realistic chances of that happening are very slim. I can’t rule Rog out. Not with the way he’s been playing but I’m not sure if he’ll really bring it when it counts.
TRY FOR THE GRAND SLAM AGAIN?
Let’s talk a bit about our players of the last season, Novak and Serena. Both came to within a combined three matches short of winning the Grand slam each. Now THAT would have made it some year. But fate had other plans. Now let’s ponder on a double golden slam season. Think it’s far out of reach? Think there’s still a few Wawrinka and Vinci stumbling blocks in front? The last decade or so has all but defined how stupendously hard it is to win the calendar slam. Nobody was really talking about what Rod Laver did until Federer came close in 2004. Granted, he was not as close as he would be in later years, but it served as the spark to light the flame of that discussion, once more. In 2006 and 2007 he came within a hair’s breath of achieving the feat. In 2010 it was Nadal’s turn and he came up short. 2011 and 2015, were Djokovic’s and Serena’s turns to try. They too could not scale the final hurdle. I personally think this is the most difficult feat to achieve in tennis. The second most difficult? We’ll talk about that in a bit.
NADAL FOR A TENTH RG TROPHY?
The French aren’t too fond of Rafa, and they don’t particularly try to hide it either. But it does not mean Rafa doesn’t love their most prized tennis trophy. He’s won the French Open a silly nine times. Last year was a bad year for Nadal and he fell at the FO for only the second time in his career. Yes, that is the second most difficult task in tennis. Beating Nadal on court Phillipe Chatrier. Nadal showed signs of a resurgence, late last season and I look for him to continue that this season. If he peaks during the clay swing as he almost always does, he’ll be hard to stop.
IPTL AND THE THROWBACK FEEL
The shortening of the tennis season has given players the wriggle room to fit in some eye catching extra curricular activities to their schedule. The International Premier Tennis League is one of such new activities on the tennis calendar and the players have warmed up to it. Think of it as a mega (ahem Dominic Thiem) exhibition tournament. It is mega. It could be even more so, if it’s management steers it in the right direction. I get the feeling it could be similar to Jack Kramer’s early tennis promotion campaigns, especially if it is not limited to Singapore. It really should be taken to those countries were Tennis is just on the cusp of brimming to the surface as a premier sport. But that’s just my take on it. I’d love to see what they do with it this year and I hope it doesn’t become nothing more than another fat pay check for the top players.
Till next time 🙂